Perhaps more than any other genre of music, hip-hop has long been known for its feuds – Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, L.L. Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee, Everybody vs. Vanilla Ice, Ice Cube vs. N.W.A., Dr. Dre vs. Eazy-E, Eminem vs. Everybody, and on and on. One that often gets forgotten is the early ’90’s feud between the two teenie-bopper groups then ruling the airwaves: Another Bad Creation (ABC) and Kris Kross.
Those who remember ABC at all today mostly remember their name chanted a capella along with Boyz II Men and BBD in Boyz II Men’s debut hit, “Motownphilly.” Others probably recall ABC’s “The Playground,” preceded by the R&B New Edition-style “Iesha.” By contrast, Kris Kross continue to be known for “Jump,” as well as “Warm It Up” and “I Missed the Bus.”
In some ways, it’s not particularly fair that ABC’s memory has been eclipsed by Kris Kross. After all, their debut album Coolin’ At the Playground Ya Know! went platinum, a major achievement for any musical act, but especially for a group of pre-teens.
Then again, nothing’s fair in hip-hop, a world where it’s not enough to see another group as merely competition; they’re an enemy to be destroyed. A world where one line from a Notorious B.I.G. song mentioning Kwame’s polka-dotted shirt could wreck his whole career.
It was less than a year after “The Playground” dropped that Kris Kross opened their hit “Jump” with a major ABC diss: “Don’t try to compare us to another bad little fad…” While they saw dissing another kiddie group as a golden opportunity to boost themselves to stardom, they might not have foreseen that it would ruin ABC’s career. When ABC performed on In Living Color in 1991, Keenan Ivory Wayans compared them to the Jackson 5. Nevertheless, the Kris Kross diss was one they never could recover from.
Not that they didn’t try. On Michael Bivins’ all-star compilation album, East Coast Famly, Volume 1, they dropped a one-and-a-half minute jam aimed at Kris Kross entitled “All These Wanna Be’s.” The opening lyrics mocked their opponents: “Somebody’s tryin’ to rhyme and tryin’ to look just like us…” (in reference to the “Jump” lyrics, “Some of them try to rhyme, but they can’t rhyme like this.”). It was cute, but not enough to rescue their career.
Meanwhile, Kris Kross re-emerged post-puberty with longer braids and deeper voices in their 1993 sophomore album Da Bomb. They kept it coming, refusing to realize that the horse they were beating had already died. Jumping on the gangsta rap bandwagon, in “Freak the Funk,” they challenged “that alphabet crew to make my day/so I can drop and chop and drop them little punks quick/ and teach ’em how to never mess with this krossed out kid.” Easy there, Dirty Harry.
In the end, though, both groups have been somewhat eclipsed through the passing of time, with Kris Kross being thrust back into the spotlight briefly last year by the tragic death of Chris Kelly, one half of the duo.